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Last updated: Sat. Nov. 10, 2012 - 02:35 am EDT

Gift of shoes, act of service for students

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FORT WAYNE — On a day off, hundreds of Fort Wayne Community Schools students received a new pair of shoes and socks, along with a bag with school supplies. About 150 student-athletes also spent the day volunteering at the event, washing students’ feet.

Case managers from 46 schools identified families in need and pre-registered them to participate in the event at North Side High School.

By 12:30 p.m., about 500 pairs had been given away with 500 left to go, district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

The event was made possible by Samaritan’s Feet, an international humanitarian nonprofit that washes children’s feet and provides new shoes. The group organizes events and buys shoes and socks with donations.

Performance Services, the district’s energy consultant, donated about $15,500 for the purchase of the shoes and socks, Samaritan’s Feet representative Chip Kauchak said. The Office Depot Foundation also donated backpacks and school supplies.

Kauchak said the organization typically receives donations that allow it to give away 250 to 300 shoes.

“We couldn’t have done this without the help of volunteers,” he said of the students from Snider and Wayne high schools and Ivy Tech Community College. “They’ve done a phenomenal job for us. Without them, we’d be in for a very long day.”

Snider sophomore Devan Lowe said at first he wasn’t thrilled that he had to be at North Side by 9 a.m. on his day off, “but it’s cool now,” he said.

Senior Zach Bennett, also from Snider, said he was happy to be there, washing kids’ feet and making conversation with them.

“It was hard with the kids who couldn’t speak English, but for the most part they were happy,” he said. “Their faces lit up (when they got their shoes). They were really cute.”

Celeste Attkisson, a sixth-grader at Lane Middle School, said getting her feet washed was kind of weird. But she liked the new pair of shoes she received, saying they were more comfortable than the ones she had walked in with.

“I was really excited,” said Celeste’s mom, Autumn, to hear about the event. “I couldn’t believe they do this.”

Autumn is the mother of six kids, who often grow quickly, and she said she spends a good amount of money on shoes for her children. Her 7-year-old son needed three pairs of shoes in one summer because he grew so quickly.

Lynell Harris brought his twins, who attend South Wayne Elementary.

“It helps out a lot,” he said. “Kids can never have too many pairs of shoes.”

Stockman said washing kids’ feet is more significant in other countries, where it’s done for sanitary purposes. But the gesture has been special for FWCS students.

“It’s been an amazing day. The smiles on the kids’ faces, you can’t beat that,” Stockman said.

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